In his always-readable and incisive Best of the Web column, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, who has been, let’s say, anti-anti-Trump for most of the campaign, today levels some long-overdue criticism of the likely nominee. “Donald Trump’s latest outrage is genuinely outrageous,” he begins. The implication — that previous Trump outrages have been overblown by his critics — is a dubious one. But we’re giving credit here, so let’s finish that task first. Taranto ”mostly” agrees with David Post of the Cato Institute who argued that Trump’s attack on the federal judge who is presiding over one of the cases alleging fraud by Trump University, is ”a not-too-thinly-veiled attack on the notion of judicial independence and the rule of law.”
But Taranto is not particularly exercised about it, pointing out that such attacks on judicial independence are not new. He cites President Obama’s thinly veiled threat against the Supreme Court when it was considering the first Obamacare case.
Taranto could have cited any number of anti-constitutional acts by this president: his abuse of executive authority in immigration matters, his politicizing of the IRS, his abuse of executive authority in the realm of sexual assault on campuses, his failure to comply with the War Powers Act, his unilateral rewriting of legislation (particularly Obamacare) through edicts. What all of these lawless actions should signify however is not that we shrug our shoulders and say, “See, Trump is nothing new” but that we hold fast to loyalty to the rule of law. More than that, it is precisely because Obama has demonstrated how vulnerable our system is to an out of control chief executive that we ought to be especially cautious about giving that power to someone who shows every indication that he would relish the abuse of power and would drive his Trump train gleefully past any flashing warning lights.
Taranto is also a bit too sanguine about another aspect of Trump’s attack on Judge Curiel. Acknowledging that Trump’s mention of the judge’s ethnicity was “invidious” (Trump falsely said he was a “Mexican” and invited the crowd’s contempt), Taranto recalls that Justice Sotomayor had boasted that a “wise Latina” would arrive at better judgments than a white man. I was highly critical of Sotomayor at the time for that comment. And Taranto is surely right that the Left constantly invokes racial grievance where it has no place. But there is a distinction between ethnic pride and puffery (which was unbecoming to be sure) and stoking racial animosity. To call out the judge who is hearing your case, to suggest that he is a “disgrace” and should recuse himself (because he has ruled against you), to threaten him, and then to add that he is “Mexican” is pure racial incitement and an attempt to undermine the judicial independence. It is ugly racism. And yes, it is even worse than what Sotomayor said.
Many on the right are attempting to “normalize” Trump and go to their usual corners against the Democrats. But as he demonstrates daily, he is not normal.